TagAZ Denies It Stole GM Design

VedomostiA TagAZ worker assembling a car in the firm’s Taganrog factory, which also produces Hyundai-brand automobiles.

Carmaker TagAZ on Monday dismissed accusations that its Korean affiliate had stolen the technological design of the Chevrolet Lacetti in the creation of its own passenger sedan.

General Motors’ South Korean division filed a court petition on Friday to stop TagAZ, which produces Hyundai cars in Russia, from using technology that GM claimed was stolen by some of its former employees, Bloomberg reported.

“We are absolutely certain that it is a unique, original model,” TagAZ spokeswoman Yelena Larina said. “We can’t rule out, however, that this may be an attempt by our competitors to slow down the sales of our new car.”

Taganrog-based TagAZ, founded in 1998, launched its first self-designed model, the Vega, in August, and has produced 994 cars since them. The model was designed at TagAZ Korea, a design bureau that TagAZ claims is completely independent from the Russia-based carmaker.

“It took four years and $250 million to design the car,” Larina said. TagAZ plans to produce 30,000 Vega models by next September.

GM Daewoo Auto & Technology filed the motion at the Seoul Central District Court on Sept. 17, Kim Sung Soo, a spokesman for GM Daewoo, said Monday.

Incheon-based GM Daewoo uses the design to make Lacetti compact cars, he added without elaborating. South Korean prosecutors are investigating two former employees from GM Daewoo in an investigation into leaked drawings and technologies, Yonhap News said Monday. Technology from Winstorm sport utility vehicles may also have been stolen, the report added.

“We are ready to fully cooperate in the investigation, but we haven’t received any requests yet,” Larina said. “The fact that both the Vega and the Chevrolet Lacetti have the same dimensions doesn’t mean that the design of the former has been stolen from the latter,” she said.

In a presentation e-mailed Monday, TagAZ compared the Vega with the Chevrolet Lacetti. While their systems of suspension and transmission of the cars differed, many elements were similar.

The Chevrolet Lacetti is one of the best-selling cars in Russia, while the compact Vega could be a strong competitor with a cost of only 349,900 rubles ($11,520), Larina said.

The Lacetti is sold at a minimum price of 498,250 rubles. Both cars qualify for state subsidies on the interest on the car loans.

GM Russia spokesman Sergei Lepnukhov could not be reached for comment Monday.

Concerns about GM technology falling into Russian hands was a complicating factor in the car giant’s sale of Opel, its European arm, to a consortium of Canadian car parts manufacturer Magna and Sberbank.

GM delayed giving approval to Magna’s bid because the deal was to allow carmaker GAZ, Sberbank’s partner in the consortium, to gain access to some of GM’s intellectual property.